A LOVE STORY
Every missionary story is a love story, because missionary work is all about love.
This is that kind of a love story.
My great-uncle, James Rowell Leavitt Wyatt was born in Wellsville, Utah on July 31, 1895. He didn't look like other babies; he had a large purple birthmark that covered the entire right side of his face. He wanted to serve in the military during World War I but was turned down because of the blindness in one eye caused by the birthmark. This was a disappointment to him. He wanted to serve a mission for the church instead, but his father disapproved. Uncle Jim accepted this double disappointment, but kept a life-long goal to serve a mission one day.
He married a kind and beautiful woman, Janette Bradshaw Bailey, and had a large family, and when that family was raised, they applied for the opportunity to serve a senior mission. With great joy they received the call to serve in the Tongan Mission. The Tongan Mission was made up of many small islands in the South Pacific. Uncle Jim and Aunt Janette were assigned to the island of Niue (nee-oo-ay), a very small land mass of 12 x 18 miles (about the size of Bear Lake on the Utah/Idaho border). The island of Niue is very isolated, many miles from any major island. Now it's an exotic, remote, travel destination, served by a weekly flight on Air New Zealand, but in those days, the early '60s, the only transportation on or off the island was by boat. The ship came once a month, and left again later the same day.
In addition to teaching the gospel, Aunt Janette taught the islanders to quilt, and to play the piano for their church meetings, and to use their native fruit to make something completely new and wonderful: banana bread! Uncle Jim and Aunt Janette loved the people of Niue, and the islanders loved them.
The boat had just come and gone the day before and there would be no getting on or off the island for another month. The heat of the island required a burial within 24 hours. Janette Bradshaw Bailey Wyatt was laid to rest just outside the island church the following day. Uncle Jim conducted a beautiful funeral service for her, preached a sermon, and dedicated her grave without the comfort of his children and relatives in his grief, but he had a greater comfort, for
The boat finally came, and Uncle Jim began the long journey home without his beloved wife. It was a Sunday, and as they put out to sea, some of the sailors asked him to conduct a church service for them, and so he continued his missionary work as he traveled. When Uncle Jim arrived home, his family and friends gathered around him and held a memorial service for Aunt Janette.
She remained buried on Niue for three years while the Church worked through the necessary red tape to bring her body back to the United States. The islanders made her grave a shrine. They built a little picket fence around it so the chickens wouldn't disturb it. They brought fresh flowers to the grave every morning. They had loved and respected Aunt Janette and they grieved her passing.
When the Church was finally permitted to exhume her body and return her home, a formal funeral was finally held, and she was re-buried in the Wellsville, Utah Cemetery.
(Source: Carolyn J. Wyatt with Jane Wyatt Salisbury [daughter], unpublished manuscript; additional contributions made by granddaughter, Suzanne [see comments below].)